By Chuck Burton
College Sports Journal
NORFOLK, VA. — Old Dominion’s and Norfolk State’s football stadiums are separated by a mere 4.2 miles, yet they have never played each other.
But this Saturday, the Monarchs and Spartans will be playing in the perennially sold-out Foreman Field in the first round of the NCAA Division I Football Championships.
Fittingly, the game is being billed as the “Battle of Norfolk”, and anticipation in the city is sky-high. “The community has just exploded with support,” a fan told the Virginian-Pilot. “People are fighting for tickets.”
“It’s the game of a lifetime,” added Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim.
Many of the athletes at both schools come from the local area high schools — 71 in all, according to the game notes — making this battle extra-intense for the players as well.
The two teams will beginning meeting regularly starting with the 2013 season.
Slotted neatly at 1:30 p.m. before the big Virginia-Virginia Tech FBS game in the state this weekend at 3:30 p.m., folks in the Norfolk area should be in for a treat, as the Spartan Legion, Norfolk State’s band, will also be making the short trip to show their marching band, the Monarch Marching Band, how it’s done.
Oh yeah, there’s also the little matter about the football game to be played – the first postseason FCS championship contest that either team has contested.
One huge boost for the home team is the potential return of defensive end Chad King, the Monarchs’ second-leading sack artist with 4 1/2, from a broken leg suffered five weeks ago.
“It would be very important to our football team if Chad could play,” Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder told the Virginian-Pilot in regards to King. “He’s such an emotional leader of this team. Our players have a tremendous amount of respect for what he’s accomplished as a human being,” noting his service in the campus ROTC program and commitment to six years of military service after graduation.
King, along with CAA defensive player of the year Ronnie Cameron (67 tackles, 6 1/2 sacks), anchor a daunting front four for anybody to face.
That’s not to say that the extremely young Monarchs are only a defense-oriented team, however, with a variety of freshman weapons like running back Angus Harper (751 all-purpose yards, nine TDs) and wide receiver Larry Pinkard (407 yards, seven TDs) for freshman signal-caller Taylor Heineke (1,770 yards passing, 15 TDs in seven games) to connect with.
The Monarchs’ freshmen will have to contend, however, with one of the craftiest coaches in the MEAC with 43-year coaching veteran Pete Adrian, and the MEAC offensive player of the year in quarterback Chris Walley (2,309 yards passing, 276 yards rushing, 22 TDs).
His top receiver, Xavier Boyce (725 yards, four TDs), is another guy that will be tough for the Monarchs to stop.
“The excitement here on campus has probably never been this high,” Adrian told the Richmond Times-Dispatch as the pairings were announced.. “This should be a great thing for the city, where (players) go out and play hard against each other, and let all the fans do their talking to each other. But then after the game, go eat hot dogs together. Because that’s the way it should be.”
While the Spartans’ offense is tough, it’s Norfolk State’s defense, ranked 3rd nationally in yardage and 4th nationally in points scored, that really could swing the momentum in favor of Gang Green.
315 lb nosetackle Josh Turner (44 tackles, two sacks) and linebacker Corwin Hammond (108 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks) spearhead this impressive unit’s front seven, as they play in a game this weekend they are unlikely to ever forget.
The game will be played at 2 p.m. at Foreman Field Stadium in Norfolk, Virginia. The game is a sellout, but will be broadcast over the internet on ESPN3.com. For additional audio, video or live statistics links, click on the FCS ScoreCenter for more information.